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Episode 91:

91. Love as a Faith Strategy with Mushfique Shams Billah

Surprisingly, there are still topics that feel taboo in the workplace. Religion is one of them. Mushfique Shams Billah is an attorney that specializes in Islamic finance and a practicing Muslim. He opens up to us about how he is able to bring his full self to work and the importance of inclusion. You won't want to miss this episode where we explore ESG, ethical finance, the workplace and boardrooms.

Speakers

Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

JeffProfile

Jeff Ma     

Host, Director at Softway

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MohProfile

Mohammad Anwar     

President at Softway

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Mushfique Shams Billah

Partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP

Transcript

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Mushfique Shams Billah
If you're a business leader and entrepreneur and you're trying to figure out how do I, you know, quote, unquote, accommodate Muslims, it's the same rule of thought that you would use for, you know, whether you have people on your team with kids or people on your team with elderly or you know, Christians, Jews, it doesn't matter, right. Different people with underprivileged backgrounds, it's having a compassionate ear, compassionate schedule and compassionate listening.

Jeff Ma
Hello, and welcome to Love as a Business Strategy podcast that brings humanity to the workplace. We're here to talk about business, but we want to tackle topics that most business leaders shy away from. We believe that humanity and love should be at the center of every successful business. I am your host, Jeff Ma. And I'm joined today by my good friend Mohammad Anwar. Hey, Moh, how's it going?

Mohammad Anwar
It's getting good. Good. See, Jeff.

Jeff Ma
Awesome. And Mo. As you know, we're here to have honest conversations about real people and real stories. And I'm really excited. I invited you personally today because we have a really unique conversation to have today. Our guest today is Mushfique Shams Billah. I practiced this before the show, and I still did not get it right. But in addition to being a partner at Hughes Hubbard and Reed LLP, Shams is one of the premier thought leaders in the United States in the area of Islamic finance, where transactions he has counseled, has won, like Deal of the Year awards, and he's spoken lectured throughout the country on Islamic finance legal trends. So it's really exciting to have this conversation with you Shams today. Welcome to the show.

Mushfique Shams Billah
Thank you, Jeff. Thank you for having me. Very excited to be speaking to you, Jeff. And you too, Mohammad.

Jeff Ma
Thank you. Yeah. And a lot of guests get uncomfortable doing this. But I want to list a couple of things that you've done professionally. So the audience has an understanding of where you come come from. So everyone hold on your hats, right? So you're an active member of the Muslim urban professionals in the Muslim Bar Association of New York. You've you have a 2021, PvP fellow of the national, you're not a fellow of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and 2019, ALI fellow the New York City Bar Association. You're also standing member of your firm's committee on diversity inclusion, co founder and co chair of its interfaith attorney, affinity group, and a member and mentor on its Asian attorney affinity group. And the list actually goes on. But importantly, you also maintain appropriate pro bono practice and matters affecting refugees in underserved communities. So I wanted to list all that out. Because it I think it paints a pretty good picture of where you start. Did I miss anything that I get?

Mushfique Shams Billah
You get you got all the high level points? Okay. You've done your homework, Jeff.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, but but I wanted to hear from you from your voice to start us off, like, tell us a little bit about your your passion in your work. And where that comes from?

Mushfique Shams Billah
Yeah, you know, the passion from my work really is tied to my faith, which is, you know, a big part and component of you know, who I am. And so me even going into law was tied to my faith, because I actually started out my career in finance, in investment banking. So I started at a firm a bank, you guys might have heard of Lehman Brothers. That happened to go belly up as soon as I joined in 2008. And but during my time at Lehman, I got exposed to Islamic finance, on a commercial, institutional level. And what I noticed is, it wasn't my colleagues in the banking group that were pushing the envelope of Islamic finance, but it was the lawyers on the call who were structuring it. And so that's how I got interested in Islamic finance. And I decided to pivot into law where I knew I could have a tremendous impact in finance and Islamic finance. And so that's how sort of I developed my passion for the law.

Jeff Ma
Can you explain a little bit about Islamic finance and it's a very niche kind of practice area. Can you tell us a little bit what that like what that means?

Mushfique Shams Billah
Sure, you know, at a high level, Islamic finance is basically using finance with an ethical lens, right. And this may tie in very much so with you know, what you guys are talking about bringing ethics and humanity to all aspects of your life. And so this is bringing Ethics and Humanities to finance and financial trade. transactions. Now what that entails is there are, you know, pragmatically there are certain rules and restrictions that are intended to make fair transactions, right. The one everyone most most people know about is the prohibition on interest. Others or you know, prohibition on on major uncertainty or require the requirement for tangible, tangible products in a transaction, and a prohibition from investing in certain exploitive areas or something haram businesses, right, like weapons manufacturing, human trafficking, pornography, the list goes on. But as you can tell, all these ideas have counterparts and another one of my practice areas, which is ESG finance, environmental, social governance, finance work. And so, it, we're living in a boom time for these types of thoughts. And I love seeing people thinking about this, and having other stakeholders in, in business, including imbuing the sense of love, ethics, humanity in everything that we do.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, and just to set a little bit of stage, and then Mohammad, I want you to jump in. But you know, I was super excited by this conversation, because like, you just mentioned all this connective tissue to love in general, and you do it in such a very specific kind of niche area. You know, when people think love is a business strategy, oftentimes, both law and finance are the last place that they kind of assume it can exist. And so I was super excited to draw that connective tissue. And also just to talk about your experience, being a Muslim in in the professional kind of environment, I work with Mohammad daily, very closely, and I have some perspective, but I've never gotten further perspective outside of that. So really, really excited to hear that Mohammad, I want to pass it over to you to kind of lead that conversation if you don't mind.

Mohammad Anwar
Yeah, Shams. How about we start with your name? And how do you see yourself, you know, introducing yourself or your name and how it's pronounced like maybe your experience in the workplace? How you've experienced that?

Mushfique Shams Billah
Yeah, I mean, look, it starts with that first matter, right? How do you introduce yourself? And, you know, before we even jump into, like, being Muslim in the workplace, I think what's important that we talk about beforehand is that it's no different than any other group in the workplace. Right? Like if you're a business leader, and entrepreneur and you're trying to figure out how do I, you know, quote, unquote, accommodate Muslims. It's the same rule of thought that you would use for, you know, whether you have people on your team with kids or people on your team with elderly or, you know, Christians, Jews, it doesn't matter, right. Different people with underprivileged backgrounds. It's having a compassionate ear, compassionate schedule, and compassion and listening, that will help you move things forward. So it starts You're right. How do I introduce myself? Mushfique Shams Billah is my full name. But there's a whole history behind that, that I sometimes I'm afraid to, you know, I don't necessarily say the whole history behind it, because, for instance, is chumps my middle name, is it a nickname? If it's a nickname, how's it even tied to, you know, your first name, because you might have Jeffrey is, and Jeff is short, maybe for Jeffrey right. But Shams looks nothing like Mushfique. And so the history behind that is my parents are from Bangladesh. And in Bangladesh, you have something called a formal first name that you use for schools, and institutions. And then you have something called a duck naam, which is your middle name that you use only with friends and family. And so funny story, even me even before in the workplace, as a kid growing up, I remember first day of kindergarten, my kindergarten teacher went through the entire roll call, and then asked, you know, has anyone not heard their name? And I quickly raised my hand, and I was like, my name is Shams. And after a little bit of juggling, they figured out it's Mushfique Shams Billah. And she was saying Mushfique and I didn't know who Mushfique was, oh, because growing up, prekindergarten, everyone in my family and my friends all called me Shams. And so that history doesn't latch on when you come to you know, it doesn't, you know, my parents didn't know that, that it's very different here that you wouldn't you wouldn't have that distinction, but that sort of lives on and then how I pronounce It's my name, I've now gotten to do it sort of in easier Anglo Saxon X Anglo Saxonised version, which is shops, which I accept, because sometimes it's, it's much easier to just do that and move on in a business transaction or in a workplace scenario. I don't know if you have a similar issue with Mohammad, right? Yeah.

Mohammad Anwar
So my name is actually Muhammad, Fakhruddin Anwar, and everybody at home, calls me Fakhru . And, you know, same thing, when I went to school, I had to try to understand that my first name is Mohammad. But my name called at home is my middle name, which is Fakhru. But my middle name in itself has an issue with the way it's spelled out, for obvious reasons. So when I moved to the United States, I was, you know, it was my middle name. So in high school, I actually hid my middle name, because I didn't want to be made fun off or picked on and so forth. In fact, I was also a little afraid of my name Mohammad when I was in college, because 911 had just happened. And Mohammad as a name was almost a lot of the terrorists who were involved in. Yeah, it was vilified completely. Yes, exactly. So I was even afraid of introducing myself as Mohammed because I didn't know how people would judge me or how they'd see me. And so I started introducing myself as Anwar to a lot of my college friends and, you know, my acquaintances. And it was only later in my work life that I decided to take back the name Mohammad and, you know, introduce myself as Mohammad's, because, first of all, it is also the name of a prophet. And it's a name that I felt that should be rightfully attributed to me to, to identify myself and the feelings I had of, you know, being ashamed of my name, or being fearful of introducing myself as Mohammad because people may judge me may not want to do business with me may not want to give us business because of my name. Because of the environment that was there in the early 2000s. I somehow built the courage and said, You know what, I'm gonna go ahead and introduce myself as Mohammad, then people want to think what they want, let them think what they want, but this is who I am. And this is, this is me, accept me as me as Mohammad. And this is, I'm, you know, going to pridefully say that I am a Muslim, and that is my name. And I wanted to live up to it. So that's kind of how my journey of trying to embrace my name Mohammad, and then my middle name factor, Fakhruddin actually stands for pride of the religion. And so I wanted to live up to that. And I wanted to try and set an example as much as I can to counter the perception of Muslims in the workplace, or in the Western world. So since then, I've kind of been like very comfortable with my name. So that's kind of my story or my name.

Mushfique Shams Billah
Yeah, no, I think that comes with time, right? Like, you know, you mentioned your progression from college to going into the workplace, right? Because, you know, I find a similar story of myself, like, when I was at Lehman Brothers, it was extremely competitive to be in the investment banking world. And I didn't want to set myself up differently. And so like, for instance, I used to keep a clean shaven face, right. And as you know, in our faith, it's recommended to be similar to Prophet Mohammad salallahu salam to keep a beard, right. But I was afraid of that at the workplace. But, you know, after pivoting and going to law school and maturing three years, and especially being in law school, where I learned my rights and no the law, I came out of that process a lot stronger mentally in this world. And, you know, you're right as well, that by that point, it was several years after 911. So things maybe have died down that people felt comfortable reemerging as their as who they are. And so I remember starting my first job in as an attorney, and going straight in on day one to HR and telling everybody, Hey, I have an I keep a beard for religious reasons. I'm not here to be a hipster. This is like this is for religious reasons. And if any partner or anyone tells you otherwise, like I'm giving you notice now because the place I was at was a very white shoe law firm from the 1800s, where everyone was clean shaven, and everyone sort of looked mostly the same. And so I was cognizant of that. But I also had the courage and bravery to finally speak up about my religion. And I remember specifically, like during the recruiting process to intentionally keep at least a small beard, because I didn't want to work at a place that didn't didn't accept me for who I was. And if they didn't want someone with facial hair, and then, you know, that's not a place I wanted to work at full time.

Mohammad Anwar
Yeah, absolutely. That that's, that's, that's very courageous of you. I think another interesting aspect of my name that I've experienced is at the airports, I've had situations where my reservations are generally locked. I cannot check in online, I have to show up at the counter to unlock my reservation, usually, with a five minute security, the manager, somebody has to come in and put in a password to unlock my reservation. But also entering back into the country, if I'm traveling from abroad, I've 80% of the time, I'm sent to a secondary room where they do another round of verification and interviews if needed before they let me go, which holds me up usually about two hours in immigration. And every time I've gone through those experiences, I've asked, Hey, why is it that I'm being pulled aside? What's the reason and everybody says it's because if your name is because of the name, Mohammad, it's flagged, and you, you know, we have to go through the secondary process of verifying everything before we let you go. And so that's been another experience for me using the name Mohammad is at the airports.

Mushfique Shams Billah
Ya know, and I think it's almost like, what it reminds me a little bit is like, you know, you have degrees of white passing, you might hear, right, and so even like, with names, it's like, how non Muslim passing you are, right? So like, my name may not appear necessarily as Muslim. But it because of that, it makes my airport experiences much more easier, right? And it's like, oh, it's sad to say, but it feels like a secret blessing in disguise. But that's what it kind of is, in the world we live in?

Mohammad Anwar
Absolutely. So taking it back to the workplace Shams? Would you be able to share? How have you, over the course of the years become comfortable in your own skin? With your religion? With your name around the workplace? And has that changed for you? Or how do you embrace it?

Mushfique Shams Billah
Yeah, I think, you know, it's, it goes back to what we were talking about. As you get more senior in your workplace and just more senior and comfortable in your skin, I think you're able to bring additional aspects are you fuller selves, fuller versions of yourselves into the workplace. And you know, part of it I almost view for those who are sort of entrepreneurs or team leaders is like, it's a two way stream, right? Part of it is people with an attentive ear, but also creating the foundations for people to feel comfortable bringing their whole selves. And I can give you examples of each right. You know, recently, a partner of mine, not in my group had emailed me, because he's in charge of the Friends of the firm group, which basically, were a 250, law firm, person law firm. We know where our specialties are, and we're big enough to do your transactions, but also small and nimble enough that for certain jurisdictions will get you the best attorneys in those jurisdictions, like we don't have an office in the UK or the Middle East, right, we'll get you the best local counsel. And so, you know, he works on those Best Friends of the firm relationships for us. And he had some relationships with these Dutch attorneys, who recently had several great promotions. And he's he wanted to set up a lunch and he emailed me and another partner saying, hey, let's set up a lunch in May. And this was literally like, three days ago. And what clicked in my mind why did he say May? Why did he push it back? You know, two weeks, but that's because he was a model of civility in the sense that I thanked him for that. And he said, Hey, by the way before I even emailed you, you know you didn't have anything he Googled when does Ramadan end? When can you do and it ends May 2, that means shops can now do a lunch with this other law firm right otherwise I've done business lunches with, without food, right? Where my counterpart is eating, and I'm not eating, and I'm comfortable doing that. But because he takes the extra step to be to sort of be sensitive to where I'm coming from and what my schedule is like, that makes all the biggest difference for me, but that's step one that he's doing. But step two, how is he comfortable knowing that I'm observing Ramadan? And that's where, like you said, Jeff, one of the things I've helped do at my firm is create those safe spaces, right, I had to co found this interfaith affinity group, he happens to be a member of it, even though he's not within my same practice area. But that's how he also knows what I'm going through. Because the reality of the workplace nowaday religion is still a very taboo topic. No, you know, nobody really wants to talk about it. And so that that was part of the impetus of creating this group where faith is very faith, or spirituality or other aspects may be very important to certain individuals, but they can't talk about that aspect in the workplace, and they sort of have to shield that. And so I think that story helps show both angles, right, you have to let employees feel comfortable. And yes, they'll feel comfortable as they get more senior. But also, those who are in leadership positions also have to be attentive and keep an open ear to figuring out and finding out what else their employees may be dealing with in life.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, I, I find it really like I look at my own journey, like personally in this because when I joined Softway, 10 years ago, I knew close to nothing about the religion. And I knew, right, it's not. It's not openly talked about, right, it's just not it's just something that people kind of avoid the topic no matter what faith we're talking about. And when I look at what I know, now, I'm not an expert, by any means. But it's because Mohammad always took the time to kind of basically patiently explain, you know, informed and kind of educate me and others around us about what he was doing, and why not to push you away, but just kind of like helping educate. And I think that that's something that only was made possible, because we had a like a personal relationship first. And then and then like, you know, because it's easy to kind of look around you and just kind of like, label Muslims around you like, Okay, well, Muslim, they're doing some prayer stuff, I'm not going to ask him about it, they're doing something they're not eating, I don't really know why. And it's just kind of like, when you put all the kind of like, the different stuff up front, and you kind of just make that the identity, you never we are able to kind of break through and have the conversations, whereas the difference for me was I had the the ability to first work with Mohammad and work with Muhammad as a person and get to know him. And then it made it very natural and easy for him to be like, Here, here's why I observed this, here's what's going on. And he'd invite me over for for Iftar, and things like that, and things would become very easy to do. And I think people miss that. I think a lot of times we try to bridge that difference, through a lot of you know, very, like pointing out the differences and like kind of like, Hey, make sure you notice what people were doing. When really, you know, it helped me personally to first get to know people like all the people and different people as a person first. And then the learnings came very, very narrow, the empathy came a lot more easy. Beyond that.

Mushfique Shams Billah
Yeah. But like, via home. And I think that's great, Jeff, by the way, right? The only thing you know, I think the unique anecdotal part of that, though, that I think we need to talk about a little bit is Mohammad happens to also be the CEO of your company, right? Sure. And so, you know, that that may make it easier for him to open up about those aspects of your lives versus like I mentioned, when I was a junior in my career, I was very afraid to do that. Right. So I hate sometimes putting the burden on the individual that may be the minority in their group to have to open up about themselves, but you have to create that environment where they can have that personal relationship with you to then talk about the other things right. Otherwise, they may not, you know, someone Jr. on your teams may who may be Muslim, if Mohammad was not the CEO maybe may feel very differently about talking about if tar are saying, Hey, guys, I gotta go. You know, I need to take five minutes to do a quick five minute prayer. I'll be right back and part of the meeting. Right. That's a very different conversation, depending on where you are. And and that aspect, you know, I think is very, I think We're making proper strides in corporate America. But I think ignoring the dynamic of politics or power struggles is something that I don't know if it's insurmountable. But I think, you know, we're working towards that.

Jeff Ma
Just 100% last note on that I think you make exactly right point, I think one of the things, one of the reasons I shared that from my lens was that if, if you're, if you're a leader, who isn't, and you're, you know, most leaders aren't all the different identities and minorities and things like that, I think it's important to know that you don't have to be the one to actually, you know, educate and teach yourself. But if you encourage and create an environment, like you mentioned, creating an environment where building relationships is encouraged, were getting to know each other, then, then you can help create personally or help your teams have personal relationships that then enable this learning in a lot easier way. So yes, you're absolutely right. Mohammad being in that position of power made that much, much very, very easy, comparatively, but I think, I don't think leaders who are listening who aren't Muslim or any other, you know, segment can they can create that as well. Yeah, exactly.

Mohammad Anwar
I was going to share it like, personally, right, for the longest time, Shams, I did not bring religion into the workplace, even as a CEO, I did not openly talk about, you know, fasting, or the food restrictions, like we all eat halal, or you know, only eat halal food and stuff. So when we used to have parties and gatherings in the office, there was no, you know, halal food options, it was whatever the majority wanted. And I was like, it's fine, you know, I can manage and so forth. It wasn't until Christopher Pitre, who you are very familiar with, came into our organization. And he, in an incident, we went to one of our client locations, and they had offered us to work through lunch. And in that meeting, they ordered pizza. And I was starving. And I went up to the table to look at all the pizza options, and they all had meat on it. And I couldn't eat because it was not halal. And, you know, I just disappointedly just went back to my desk, I went back to the table and sat down and Chris noticed, and he came to me and he was like, Mohammad, I know you couldn't eat anything. So here's a bag of almonds that you can have, he took it out of his backpack, and he gave it to me. And that was my only snack or meal that I could have through that full day workshop. And after that point, Chris made it made a commitment that he is going to ensure that everyone at software gets, you know, has options, whether it's at a client location, whether it's our own internal parties, or booking media, restaurants to go eat out at to make sure all options are available for different dietary restrictions. And even though I was in this position of power, I was really minimizing the situation. I was like, Don't Don't worry about me, don't worry about me just order whatever everybody else wants. Don't worry about the restaurant, let's just go to any restaurant where you guys want to go. And I always tried to not impose my religious preferences for dietary restrictions, and so on and so forth. It wasn't until Chris recognized that and became an ally. And he made sure to not just make it possible for me, but all of the employees whether they were Hindu, or vegan, they couldn't eat beef, or they couldn't eat meat or dairy, and are halal. From there on. He was like, no matter what we do, we're going to make sure there are all options available. And it's not just salad. It's also a hot meal. For the vegetarians. It's a hot meal for everyone. And so the point I'm trying to make is, while I was a leader and someone in position of power, I could have enforced those inclusive options to include everybody but I didn't, because I was afraid because I was fearful. How will I be perceived if I put a mandate that we should have this type of food option because even if I say it as a recommendation can be taken as a mandate because of the position and Title I have, but it wasn't until like how you had that one partner recommend for lunch in May for you. You can be in any position in the organization leader or not leader and still be an ally to help those around you to make them feel included. Make them feel welcome. And for us Christopher Pitre was The person who really brought a lot of that awareness, even with our customers, when customers are like, Hey, let's go have lunch together, he'd be very politely say, hey, let's find a restaurant where we can have inclusive food options. And he could say things that I couldn't say. And I think that kind of an environment is so crucial, so that we have the allies and that empathy and people looking out for one another, to make sure that everybody is included. And I think that was that was when I started to feel more comfortable speaking about my dietary restriction, it wasn't until then, that I really openly started to speak about it. So I had a lot to do with that my co workers making that space.

Mushfique Shams Billah
Yeah, and I agree with you, finding those allies, mentor sponsors in an organization is very, very helpful, because I agree with you, I've had similar I felt similar comfort and breaking through based on those allies, right. You know, like you mentioned, Jeff, when you get to know your co workers, like, I work with, you know, several Orthodox Jews, or not Orthodox, Conservative Jews who also have dietary restrictions, or have prayer restrictions, or, you know, when they can't go to work necessarily. And so speaking to them, and getting to know them, and you know, how they've managed to, to bring their full selves to the work world, made it much more comfortable for me to, to do the same, right? Where they're actually the ones advocating for me, right, because they're ordering kosher meals during mandatory team meals. And they're saying Shams, you should have a hello option, right, you shouldn't always have a salad or like a cold option. And so you're right meeting and finding those people was, I think, another impetus of me, co creating this interfaith attorney Affinity Group, which is really unprecedented in the legal world, like the legal world is known to be very conservative, very, very slow to progression. But those types of experiences eyes, helped me see the need for allowing those connections to happen also more organically, and having those allies

Mohammad Anwar
Totally agree. Shams. Absolutely. Jeff, do you have any other

Jeff Ma
I was gonna, I was gonna ask, I wanted to hit on that a little bit more where, you know, you are doing something very unique, like I mentioned at the start of the show, legal finance kind of two words that just seemed, you know, if you just arbitrarily draw it on the spectrum against, like, love, and you know, humanity and things like that, it has a stigma. And they kind of sit on opposite ends, can you? And here you are kind of bridging that. Can you talk a little bit about whether it's through, you know, your actual work, your experiences, or you know, the affinity group and things that you've formed? What, talk a little bit more about that? That? Is there. Is there truth in that, in that, in that difference? Or where's love actually found in that?

Mushfique Shams Billah
You know, I think we're we are currently at a very interesting time. And I kind of alluded to it earlier, where the introduction of love into the workplace is also occurring in corporate boardrooms, across America, right. Our firm is one of the preeminent leaders in the ESG space, right? environmental, social governance aspects. And what we've noticed were, were one of the partnering organizations or partner firms for something called the Conference Board, which is the largest think tank in this in this area. And they've noticed and started doing studies that in corporate boardrooms, everyone's talking about a shift from stockholder primacy primacy, where companies only focus on profits to stakeholder primacy, where you're thinking about other aspects other than profits, right? How does this affect my employees? How, where am I getting my vendors from? Are they ethically sourcing things for me? You know, how do I treat my employees? Like, what are the decisions I'm making? And so CEOs and directors are thinking about this. This shows to me that legal and finance is now No, you know, it's it's taken a while but love is now knocking on their doors too. And so you're right before this time, there was nothing about that. But since 2019, there was a famous white paper Bro that was done on this topic. And so since then we've now experienced it. And I think COVID definitely helped exacerbate that situation where I was listening to one of your other podcasts, you had a recruiter on who was saying like 65% of Americans are looking for new jobs, because right now there is every CEO or every leader of a company is looking at talent acquisition and talent retention, right. And so if you don't bring love and encouragement to a workplace where people are happy to work, you're gonna have difficulty in this labor shortage market. So I think business finance law, it's all now compounding around this concept of love that I agree with you was not here 10 years ago. You know, and so, I do see why you might have seen that dichotomy before. But I think it's, it's, it's much less now, and will be going forward.

Jeff Ma
And I think, you know, I bundle a bunch of things. I mean, it's, it's definitely a stereotype for sure, right? When you think of like a salesperson for say, like, just, if you just just offer that word alone, obviously, there are a huge range of people who do sales, but when you think of salesperson, you just automatically think, you know, bottom line, you know, maybe greedy may be sleazy those types of things. And I think for me like that, my entire hope and dream and kind of like, bringing humanity back to the workplace is so that all these things can be done with, with, you know, ethics and ethics at heart and people in mind and things like that. And so I was really curious to see like, what you're seeing, and I'm, I'm heartened to hear you say that, that it is it is changing, I don't have a good lens into that to sort of hear from you. And your firm. Knowing that it's on its way is is actually very encouraging to hear.

Mushfique Shams Billah
Yeah, and I think it's in like three areas, right. Like, I'll see it from a business standpoint, where we're right, my, my clients are pushing for that, right, I have clients that are doing sustainably linked loans, right loans, where the pricing is determined based on key performance indicators, like, you know, are they, you know, different for each client, but like, how much diversity they have at a workplace? Or are they lowering carbon emissions. And if they do that, then their interest rate on their loans are slightly less, right. So, you know, you'll see it in actual business terms, from clients, you'll see it in the in internally at a workplace, right, like through the creation of our interfaith group, we were also able to recently introduce with our firm, by the way, just opened up fully to everyone in March last month. But in connection with that opening, our interfaith group was able to espouse the creation of a reflection room. In the, in the firm, for the first time, a place where people can meditate, pray, or just use it for whatever purpose is obviously different than a lactation room. But you need a separate dedicated space for people who practice their faith in need five minutes out of the day, to to perform religious obligations, or just to relax and decompress. So you see these movements happening internally at workplaces, and then also tangentially on what people are doing, you know, feeling comfortable bringing other aspects of, of their internal being. So like, for instance, you mentioned at the beginning podcast, like, I like doing a lot of pro bono work. But luckily, I'm at a firm that had a founder that believes in pro bono work, you know, the founder of our firm, Charles Evans Hughes. He's very famous gentleman from the 1800s, who was the former governor of New York, a US presidential candidate, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, but pro bono activities and helping the underprivileged was part of his mantra that our firm has kept on and, and because of that, I feel comfortable that I don't only have to do pro bono work that our firm generates, but I can do things that are important to me, right. You know, I've helped my local mosque with their bylaws because I'm a corporate attorney, and that's an expertise I can bring. You know, I help I love helping this organization called the International Refugee Assistance Project, which helps people in countries come to the United States or North America or other places that are, you know, in war torn areas, and I love specifically helping people who face religious persecution, because faith is important to me and, you know, bring you know, I've helped bring family He's from Syria and Iraq to Canada, you know, straight to help a Rohingya refugee. But these types of things where people face religious persecution across the world, I know because I am lucky enough to be able to practice religion freely, that this is important to me. So I think I think this is helping on so many different levels, Love as a Business Strategy, right, with your own clients with productivity internally, and then just exciting people to make making people excited to be here at work.

Jeff Ma
No, I really appreciate you sharing that I really, we don't get a glimpse into that often enough, you know, a lot of the people we talk to are in a similar place and similar types of, you know, corporate world, and there is a whole world of, you know, finance and law that we always, you know, intended to want to break through and talk to, and it's good to know that it is happening. And there's ways ways to, to address that in all facets of work. So I really appreciate you bringing that perspective today. And giving us that I'm really excited about I'm really hopeful about it, personally.

Mushfique Shams Billah
Yeah. And you know, everyone can play a part in that, right? Because like you, you can choose where you get your financing from, you can choose your vendor list, right, you, you know, I was talking to a colleague recently, like right now, it's, it's no longer Oh, making sure the diamond you have is not a Blood Diamond. But like, the whole supply logistics of how that diamond got to you. You can kind of control now. And that's what people in corporate America are looking into not just saying like, Am I happy that my coffee is fair trade, but like, what about all aspects of the cup that that's in and where it was financed? From and, and, you know, all this stuff. I'm glad it's now coming to to the forefront or to the lens of people. Because it's heartening, because it kind of ties back to why I first came into law, right? Because of ethical finance, right? Islamic finances, forces you to think about negative externalities of your transactions

Jeff Ma
Shams thank you so much for your time today. And thank you so much for sharing all the insights. So we had a really good conversation. Really appreciate you. Coming today and sharing.

Mushfique Shams Billah
Yeah, I'm very happy. I'm glad we got to talk about so many different aspects of this really important topic. So

Jeff Ma
absolutely. And a big thank you to listeners as well. We are posting new episodes every week. And as always, please be sure to check out our our book Love as a Business Strategy, and we really appreciate you continuing to listen and we hope you subscribe and rate. drop us a note give us feedback and tell a friend with that. Thank you mo as well for joining and we'll see everybody

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